It has been about a week since the Iraq Veterans Against the War national convention came to a close and what a week it has been. Sorting through everything that was talked about, finding ways of dealing with members that seem to be set in their way, at least to some of us newer members, and finishing up paperwork in support of expanding the member idea base have made for a long week. Being able to meet and converse with some of the other prominent groups around the country that made it out to the convention was an outstanding opportunity. The Poverty Initiative, National Nurses United, and United Workers all had representatives there to tell a little about their stories and show that we are not fighting alone or against a single target but rather at the roots, we are all fighting the same problem. Opening the lines of communication and allowing for these groups to work hand in hand will open doors that alone our organizations would not be able to find.
This convention was the first that I have been able to attend and from the sound of all the conversations it was a good one to start with. From the conversations that I was a part of this year went without a hitch, only minor hiccups, and the weekend progressed better than it had ever before. This is even in light of some major projected changes to the organization. Losing staff, changing almost the entire board of directors, a by-law amendment, proposing a process to change the name, and overall looking at the model of organizing to see if there is a way to optimize persons in their direct locations.
From the active members that were able to attend there was a fairly good showing from around the nation. Chicago, Colorado, the Bay area, and Texas had an outstanding showing, not to mention other members from across the US. CivSol showed that they are down to do whatever is needed to help us in any actions we need and a big shout out needs to go to Anna and Sergio. Both members of CivSol made the convention happen for us. Now down to my opinions and observations of the events that took place.
The proposed process that would allow for the name to be looked at, not necessarily changing the name but looking at the possible pros and cons of a name change, went fairly well. A straw poll was taken and the majority of the member body voted to move forward with the process. There were only 4 blocks and two of those blocks came from either a prospective board member or a current member of the staff who is currently involved with the committee that was underwriting this process coming into the convention. These two members were the spokespersons for, and possibly influenced negatively other members who are either new or look up these veterans of the organization. That being said I am not discounting that other veteran members did not have any influence on the body but rather the flow was not stopped and the forward momentum could be continued.
Although hurricane Sandy had taken its toll across the eastern seaboard, one staff member could not make it to the start of the convention, this member was also one of two blocks on the vote for the new overarching scope and direction of the VVM, which was covered on the day that was missed. The block was based on, from my understanding, on the use of a single term, militarism.
There were also workshops that took place throughout the weekend. Three that stick out as ones to be mentions are the fundraising workshop where Amadee covered how to create a budget on a local chapter level and ways of funding chapters. Things from throwing a house party and inviting current or possible donors to finding new donors in the community were all covered. The Warrior Writers workshop which I was unable to attend but heard that the work coming out of the sessions were amazing and the use of tools like this can allow for healing and sustained self care. And lastly was the Popular Education workshop put on by the Poverty Initiative. This was one of the most informative and mind opening workshops that I have had a chance to be at. The discussion was able to flow at the lowest level in groups of two or three where each member of the group was encouraged to discuss how the topic was observed in their life experience. after the experiences were shared the larger group would then weed through them and see if a root cause could be found. This was explained to be how organic individuals were / are developed. The opening of minds to see the root causes of the problems takes more time than that of traditional schooling but the results are much greater and worth nurturing.
As the weekend was coming to a close people were starting to get tired and emotions were running high and hot in some cases. And as such there were a few people that decided to take some time to themselves, which is not a bad thing in any case, but may have put more of a burden on others than was really needed. As the shifts in the organization started happening there were members that now were finding themselves jobless and feeling alone or without a cause. These feelings are not good ones to have but trying to deal with them alone can become troublesome. Even someone who I consider a good friend tried to deal with this alone and refused to talk at the time. Even in light of these issues there were other members who took the changes in an optimistic frame of mind. There were three other members who iI had not had a chance to meet until this weekend and all three members gained much respect. The way that these members held themselves and worked with every other member to make the weekend go almost as well as hopped helped to create the greatest community that I have been able to become a part of.
All in all the convention was one that I am glad I was able to attend. I am looking forward to next year as well as the other two possible training that are currently planned throughout next year. I appreciate everyone who came together to make this convention possible and was able to move through the barriers presented.